In February I posted my Top Ten Films of 1997 and having previously done the years of 98, 99 all the way up to the present (even including my mid-year Top Ten for 2013 [damn I like lists]) I have been hesitant in doing this one. Mainly because even when I first glanced at the list of films released in 1996 in March (when I originally planned to post this) I had realized that my knowledge of the films released then is very limited.

In 1996 I was just ten years old. If you asked me then what my favourite film released that year was I probably would’ve responded Sgt. Bilko (that movie was hilarious guys) and I will defend 10-year-old me movie decisions to the ends of the earth. However, I know that film wasn’t going to cut it.

Today however I feel a little bit better in just being upfront about my stupendous blindspots that reside in the year of 1996 (I blame Demolition Man) and say “fuck it” let’s just say it as I believe it to be and then you guys can set me right and tell me movies to watch (which I like doing anyways). So let’s go:

10. Mars Attacks! (dir. Tim Burton)

Mars Attacks

I blame never revisiting this film for why I’m so kind to this film, but I like it a lot. With the campy overly comedic tone that Burton takes to it I feel Mars Attacks! gets what it’s going for and doesn’t turn back. I just love the moment when they just go hell crazy on the humans in the desert.

9. Mr. Holland’s Opus (dir. Stephen Herek)

Mr Hollands Opus

Possibly one of the most sappy picks I’ve ever made but if there ever was a should’ve been made for Lifetime movie that I adore and probably watched everytime I saw it on TV it was Mr. Holland’s Opus. I love the heart that this movie has and I love Richard Dreyfuss, what can I say. Maybe this is what happens after you go in the search for the Wolfman one night.

8. Mission: Impossible (dir. Brian De Palma)

Mission Impossible

One of the best action films released in the last decade and I’ll hold anyone to saying otherwise. The film stands out as the best of the franchise, with Ghost Protocol coming a close second, and I don’t see them ever surpassing it. Something about the way De Palma made it into that 60s spy show feel as opposed to making it into a very 90s action film worked on me and keeps it more than just a moment in time action romp.

7. Jerry Maguire (dir. Cameron Crowe)

Jerry Maguire

Did I mention movies that are sappy? “You had me at hello” … shudder… I’m sorry guys I’m a sucker for Jerry Maguire. I can tell when we get that scene where his current girlfriend that is still working at the firm that he dropped out of because he grew a conscience breaks up with him because he’s breaking up with her is being crazy manipulative and really dumb, but it just kind of does it to me. Maybe it’s those other moments? Like when the child and Jerry are trying to one up one another with random factoids, when Rod explains to Jerry about single mothers, when he screams “Show me the money”, and definitely when he has her at hello… I’m a sucker okay guys. Know this and we’ll be okay.

6. The Birdcage (dir. Mike Nichols)

The Birdcage

I want to claim my love for this movie is because of Robin Williams, or Nathan Lane or even Gene Hackman. But I’m going to put it all on Hank Azaria. In a supporting role of Agador, the butler/maid of the home he just nails every scene and as ridiculous and caricature as he can be it makes me laugh uncontrollably. The moment Azaria puts on normal shoes and we see him attempt to walk across the room, comedy perfection. 

5. Beautiful Girls (dir. Ted Demme)

Beautiful Girls

So getting a bit more serious here with this tale of a guy heading back home for his high school reunion and ending up dealing with all of his friends problems as they all have reached different stages in their lives with their women. There’s the guy who can’t stop seeing the married woman, the one who still acts like he’s a teenager and then the guy who’s married, and about to be married. It’s a film filled with great moments and probably the best film to have Rosie O’Donnell in it.

4. The Rock (dir. Michael Bay)

The Rock

So. I don’t know if you know this about me, but I love fun movies. The Rock is fun, it’s dumb, but it’s fun. I loved reading Sound on Sight’s piece discussing it’s possible entry into the James Bond franchise where Sean Connery is a James Bond retired that’s been dug up for this mission. Regardless of how much of that information is within the film or not it’s a fun idea to contemplate and watch the film with that mind to see how it plays, but The Rock is amazing action and one of the few Michael Bay films that I won’t even try to be logical about.

3. Trainspotting (dir. Danny Boyle)


Danny Boyle is a filmmaker who rarely discusses the same topic more than once in film. Trainspotting is his discussion of not only addiction but also post-colonial mentality among British youth and it’s amazing.

2. Primal Fear (dir. Gregory Hoblit)

Primal Fear

Not many people talk about this law thriller with Richard Gere and Edward Norton, but they should. This film is as smart as it is twisted and the performances are great. What struck me about this movie when I first saw it was how it played with violence. It’s entire premise is on this violent happening that we never see which plays into the Norman Bates like qualities of Norton’s character. We believe his kind innocent demeanor so much that we’re willing to give everything a pass, until we dive deeper and then we find more in there than we ever bargained for.

1. Fargo (dir. Joel & Ethan Coen)

Fargo - WHM

One of the films by the Coen Brothers that I go back on forth on as to whether it is definitively my favourite film of theirs. Then I rewatch No Country for Old Men and the battle continues.

I adore Fargo, it is without a doubt one of the smartest written films to have ever existed. The way it layers this serious crime drama epic alongside one of the weirdest comedies ever released in theatres I can’t imagine. Sometimes I try to watch this film without laughing and fail horrendously and I can’t help but go insane over little moments. Usually in relation to Peter Stormare‘s crazed performance as the quiet accomplice to the crime that actually does all the shooting. Then the wonderful ending, “all for some money” moment where when a film delivers a message I tend to say “screw that” I kind of go “Ye, that makes sense” and I love it for that.

What’re your favourite films of 1996?

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Author: Andrew Robinson

This is my blog. There are many others like it, but this one is mine. My blog is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me, my blog is useless. Without my blog, I am useless. I must fire my blog true. I will. Before God I swear this creed: my blog and myself are defenders of my mind, we are the masters of our enemy, we are the saviors of my life. So be it, until there is no enemy, but peace. Amen.

  • Paul Harrell

    My top 20 of the year.

    Bottle Rocket
    The Cable Guy
    From Dusk Till Dawn
    MST3K: The Movie
    Lone Star
    Hard Eight
    Waiting for Guffman
    Mission Impossible
    Crash (Cronenberg)
    Mars Attacks!
    Happy Gilmore
    The Rock
    Sling Blade
    A Time to Kill

    • Holy shit! Did I forget Scream? Now I feel dumb… there's a new #10 for me

  • For me:

    1. Breaking the Waves

    2. Trainspotting

    3. Bottle Rocket

    4. Fargo

    5. Crash

    6. Secrets & Lies

    7. Hard Eight

    8. La Promesse

    9. Walking and Talking

    10. William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet

    • I need to revisit Romeo + Juliet; I haven't seen it since release and just didn't dig it then… but I was also 10-yrs-old too.

    • Paul Harrell

      Still need to see Breaking the Waves. High on my list of shame.

  • SNG Movie Thoughts

    Good list. Definitely agree with #1 and #2

    • Gotta love Norton being creepy and William H Macy being inept

  • Squasher88

    Mars Attacks is an unusual choice! I need to see more from that year, but my top 2 are Swingers and Jerry Maguire

    • see description and intro to post; also see reply to Paul's comment where I'm reminded that Scream was a 96 film.